Police investigate death of Monte Paschi spokesman

SIENA, Italy Thu Mar 7, 2013 1:05pm GMT

1 of 2. David Rossi, the spokesman of Monte Paschi di Siena, is seen in this undated photo. Rossi, found dead on March 6, 2013, was under pressure over an investigation into alleged corruption and fraud that has rocked the world's oldest bank, reporters who knew him said.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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SIENA, Italy (Reuters) - The spokesman of Monte Paschi di Siena, the Italian bank at the centre of an investigation into alleged corruption and fraud, has been found dead at the bank's Siena headquarters, a dramatic twist in the politically sensitive case.

A judicial source said prosecutors were investigating whether David Rossi, head of communications at the bank, had committed suicide, adding that police were not aware at this stage of any threat against him.

He was found dead late on Wednesday. His body was lying beneath the open window of his office in the bank's headquarters, an eyewitness and the source told Reuters.

Another source with direct knowledge of the investigation said messages had been found that looked like suicide notes.

Monte dei Paschi, Italy's third-largest bank, is at the centre of an investigation into alleged corruption and fraud over the costly 2008 acquisition of Antonveneta bank and risky derivative trades.

Police have sealed off Rossi's office, located on the third floor of a restored 14th century fortress in the historic Tuscan city of Siena, but the judicial source said there were no plans to conduct an autopsy.

"It was not deemed necessary because the injuries examined yesterday at the site were already evident," the source said.

Born in 1961, Rossi had worked for more than a decade for Mussari, who is one of those being investigated in the bank probe.

He was the spokesman of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena's foundation, the bank's biggest shareholder, from 2001 to 2006. When Mussari, the foundation's chairman, moved to head the bank in 2006, Rossi went with him.

Mussari is under investigation in the probe on allegations of misleading regulators, market manipulation and false information in the prospectus of the Antonveneta deal.

Rossi, who was not under investigation himself, was among several people whose homes and offices were searched last month.

One source with direct knowledge of the investigation said a crumpled scrap of paper was found in a waste basket in his office reading: "I have done a stupid thing".

Investigators also found some scribbled messages that appeared to be attempts by Rossi to write a farewell letter to his wife, the source told Reuters. They were seeking to identify the handwriting on the scrap of paper and the messages.

The scandal triggered a political storm before last month's Italian parliamentary election because the bank has close ties to the centre-left Democratic Party, which won control of the lower house but failed to win the Senate.

Monte dei Paschi's Facebook page carried a black stripe as a sign of mourning.

"The death of David Rossi is a terrible tragedy," it said.

"This tragic event imposes first of all respect for his person, for the mourning of his family and for all of us, and calls on us to find the strength and the courage to go ahead and continue in our commitment."

David Taddei, a former partner of Rossi at a communication agency they founded in 1996, was quoted as saying in Il Corriere della Sera newspaper that Rossi had been uneasy when they last spoke.

"(David) was worried. We met on Thursday, he opened up a little, even though he was so reserved."

(Writing by Lisa Jucca; editing by Barry Moody and Philippa Fletcher)

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